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Rajapaksa to raise issue with India

SL says Indian boats are used for arms smuggle, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Nov 17, 2006 12:56 IST

Following the discovery of Tamil Nadu fishing trawlers being used by the LTTE to smuggle in arms, the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa is expected to raise the issue when he meets the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi at the end of this month.

Rajapaksa could also reiterate Sri Lanka's long-standing demand for joint Indo-Sri Lankan patrolling of the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar to prevent such gun running. India has been resisting this proposal.

"It is very likely that the President will raise this issue," the Sri Lankan Defence Spokesman, Keheliya Rambukwella, told Hindustan Times on Friday.

Efforts were already on to sensitise the Indian authorities on the menace which was affecting Indian fishermen as well, since many of them were forced to be part of the smuggling operation, he said.

The arms smuggling issue will help Rajapaksa defend himself when Manmohan Singh, under pressure from the Tamil Nadu political parties, brings up the issue of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces' actions which have badly affected Tamil civilians in the North-East.

Caught red handed

On November 14, the Sri Lankan Navy caught Sekar, a 45 year old Indian fisherman from Tamil Nadu, when he jumped off a trawler following a confrontation with the Sri Lankan Navy off Kalpitiya on the north western coast of Sri Lanka.

Sekar had escaped in the nick of time as the Navy blew up the trawler, which according to him, had seven LTTE cadres on board.

According to official sources, another trawler with four Indians on board had gone missing and is thought to be in waters controlled by the LTTE further north.

"In his confession, Sekar had narrated how he was forced to be part of the arms smuggling operation of the LTTE," Rambukwella said.

"He was in tears when he narrated the story," added Commodore DKP Dassanayake, the Navy spokesman.

"The confession was handed over to the Indian High Commission, and the Foreign Ministry is taking up the matter with the Indian authorities through the High Commission," Rambukwella said.

Sekar to be sent back to India

The nabbed Indian fishermen would be sent back to India because he was "innocent" he said.

"The LTTE is a problem for Indian fishermen too," he added.

According to Com. Dassanayake, the LTTE intrudes into Indian waters in the Palk Strait and Gulf of Mannar and seizes Indian trawlers.

"The Tigers rob the fishermen of their catch, diesel and nets, and fire on those who resist," he said.

But undoubtedly some Indian fishermen willingly work for the money offered, which may be Rs 5,000 for a trip.

65,000 electric detonators seized

"On January 16 this year, 65,000 electric detonators were seized. Used for detonating claymore mines, these were apparently manufactured in Bangalore," Com.Dassanayake said.

According to a report in The Island daily, there had been confrontations with the LTTE on the North Western coast on February 11, March 25, October 15 and 31.

The seizure made on October 31 included some 120 mm mortars with no indication as to where they were manufactured. Efforts are on to find out the place of manufacture.

First Published: Nov 17, 2006 12:48 IST